BREWER — The Brewer boys basketball team hoped a win over Oxford Hills on Friday night would help solidify the Witches’ position within the Eastern Maine Class A tournament picture.
But after enduring the 2 1/2-hour bus ride from South Paris, the Vikings weren’t in a cooperative mood. Coach Scott Graffam’s club held Brewer with out a field goal for the first 10 minutes, 7 seconds of the game and went on to a 65-45 victory.
“This was one of our best games,” said Oxford Hills junior forward Josh MacDonald, whose team is now 5-9 this winter. “This is what we can do when people show up. We were aggressive, we came out to play.”
Senior guard Dan Taylor led the Vikings with 19 points — on three 3-pointers and 10 free throws — while Brian Lynch added 13 points, MacDonald had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Deric Hanscom also grabbed 10 boards.
Ray Bessette led Brewer (6-8) with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Zach Violette had eight points and seven rebounds.
Despite suffering their fourth straight loss, the Witches maintained a tenuous hold on the eighth and final playoff slot in the Heal point ratings, just ahead of Messalonskee of Oakland and Cony of Augusta.
But it was no thanks to Oxford Hills, which never let Brewer within single digits after jumping out to a 13-2 lead seven minutes into the contest.
“They did a good job of coming into our place and playing tough,” said Brewer coach Ben Goodwin, whose team had edged the Vikings 56-54 at South Paris on Dec. 30. “They beat us right off the bat, they played physical and we couldn’t match it and got ourselves into a hole that we couldn’t get out of.”
Goodwin’s assessment couldn’t have been more accurate, as Brewer didn’t score from the field until senior guard Bessette hit a runner from the lane with 5:53 left in the second quarter — a basket that cut the Witches’ deficit at the time to 20-5.
Oxford Hills built that early lead thanks to three early 3-pointers by Taylor as well as the collective inside work of MacDonald, Jordan Croteau, Matt McVety and Hanscom, who combined for 14 rebounds in the first quarter alone against a Brewer offense that missed its first 15 field-goal attempts.
“One of the things we want to make sure we do is to run and to get up in people’s faces and make them play faster than they want,” said Graffam. “We know Brewer likes to play fast, but we did a good job in the first quarter of getting up and down the court with them and slowing them down a little, and that set the tempo.”
A 3-pointer by John Frechette extended Oxford Hills’ lead to a half-high 27-7, but Bessette scored twice and fed Violette for a layup to narrow the gap to 28-14 at intermission.
Brewer ultimately got as close as 45-34 on a steal and layup by Justin Brier with 6:01 left in the game, but Oxford Hills answered with a 10-2 run featuring a combined 6-for-6 effort from the free-throw line from Taylor and Lynch to take a 55-35 lead into the game’s final four minutes.
“When it got to 11 after we turned it over and they had scored, I was going to call a timeout,” said Graffam, “but we got the ball inbounds and ran it down the court and got a good shot before I could call a timeout. That got it back to 13, and I thought ‘maybe we’ve weathered it,’ and we did.”
Oxford Hills made 16 of 20 from the line in the fourth quarter, with Taylor hitting 9 of 12 and Lynch making all six of his tries.